Rabbit Hole: COVID Explains Everything
Thought experiment: Can every single thing that's happened over the past three years be traced back to COVID and the pandemic response?
“Rabbit Hole” is a single-topic deep dive column that comes out twice per month for paid subscribers. The free newsletter returns in a few days.
In one of the interviews I did for my book “Uncovered,” Newt Gingrich and I were talking about January 6, and the former Speaker of the House made a side comment that 1/6 was connected to COVID and the pandemic. It was something I hadn’t thought about before, but the evidence was compelling. There were the changes in voting that led to more mail-in votes, that was directly a result of the COVID precautions, which led to more questions than normal about the process. There was the general distrust in institutions that developed during the pandemic, particularly from the Trump supporters who would be in attendance that day. There was the fact that the gathering happened at all — and surely some of what transpired was a result of being cooped up in an unnatural way for nine months.
None of this is to excuse the riot offshoot that emerged from the rally, but it seems logical to draw a through line from COVID to that moment. And it got me thinking — what can’t you connect COVID and the pandemic to that’s transpired over the past three years? The answer I keep coming back to is ‘nothing.’ Everything is related, in some way, back to COVID. So as a thought experiment, I tried to test that theory.
What have been the enduring social and cultural movements of the past several years? I see two, and they both relate back to COVID. First is the “social justice” movement that emerged in earnest after the murder of George Floyd — and the counter movement that sprung up as a result.
The Floyd protests around the country and the world in June 2020 feel like a direct result of the pandemic and lockdowns. On one hand, so many people were stuck inside, watching cable news and social media run the Floyd killing on loop, and organizing for the emergence that would come. Similarly, breaking free from the lockdowns and gathering in person for the first time in months surely had some effect on the riot offshoots that would come from as well. In that way, it’s similar to January 6.
The way those protests and riots were covered, the way they had an impact on how people think about the culture and our society — that has stuck with people on both sides of the cultural divide. But it all, in one way or the other, goes back to COVID.
The second dominant social and cultural movement is what has roughly been called the “parents rights” movement, and the counter movement that as emerged as a result. I’ll get to the key players, and their COVID connection, but the entire impetus for it can be summarized well in this heartbreaking image, from an excellent New York Magazine piece by David Zweig: